Hennessy V.S.O.P. Cognac bottle

Hennessy V.S.O.P. Cognac bottle (Photo by White Field Photo on Unsplash)

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from wine, while Cognac is a more rarefied type of brandy that is only produced in a specific area in southwestern France. Both are inexorably linked with high-class libations and pricey cocktails. The best cognacs are typically enjoyed on their own or perhaps with water on the side to cleanse the palate. Less expensive cognacs are also great additions to a variety of culinary sauces, soups, and desserts. The labels on our list of the top seven bottles of cognac are all award-winners.

For those who are inexperienced with spirits and fine liqueurs, it can be easy to overdo it. Moderation is a must, particularly with powerful aged whiskey such as brandy and cognac. If you want the perfect whisky, be sure its water content is less than 20 percent. Researchers say anything over 20 percent will dilute the flavor and change its taste. Adding a splash of water to your whisky has been an old trick to “open up” the flavor of whisky. According to the study, however, adding too much can ruin the drink altogether.

So which bottles are the best when it comes to expert rankings? We took a look at 10 lists curated by the so-called experts to come away with the consensus best cognac bottles for collectors and connoisseurs alike.

After our list we’ve included a guide to help you distuinguish high-quality cognacs from low-quality versions. You can also us know your favorite brandy labels in the comments below!

Pouring a glass of Cognac
Pouring a glass of Cognac (Photo by Charles “Duck” Unitas on Unsplash)

The List: Best Cognac Bottles, According to Experts

1. Louis XIII by Rémy Martin

Louis XIII is the undisputed king of all Cognac. This ultra-luxurious spirit, beyond the exorbitant cost, is also difficult to find. “What is the best expensive brandy? If you’re going to really ball out and spend the big bucks for a bottle of brandy, you’re going to want to grab an expression from Louis XIII,” according to ManOfMany.

Liquor Laboratory asserts, “Brandy is often described as the elixir of the gods, as it is filled with refinement and elegance… Rémy Martin is a popular cognac house in France. Its flagship product, Rémy Martin Louis XIII, has a luxurious taste and an expensive price tag.”

“Louis XIII, owned by Rémy Martin, is a truly one-of-a-kind cognac. At over $4,000 a bottle, its premium price comes from its incredibly intricate production process: each bottle is composed of up to 1,200 individual eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne vineyards, ranging from at least 50 years to 100 years in age,” evaluates Luxe Digital.

2. Philbert Rare Cask Sherry Finish Grande Champagne Cognac

Philbert is an exclusive small batch cognac. As such, it has all the nuance and craftsmanship that is expected of the world’s finest spirits. Liquor.com raves, “Philbert’s rare cask finish cognac is the handiwork of brothers Xavier and Pierre-Olivier Précigout… ‘grower-producers striving to innovate by making eaux-de-vie their own way.’ They were the first in the Cognac region to age their eaux-de-vie in sherry casks, and the oloroso barrels add nutty, cherry-rich roundness to their excellent, terroir-driven brandy.”

ManOfMany praises, “This very limited, small-batch cognac brand is well-known for its artisanal expressions. Using traditional ingredients and techniques, this small brand was named for a familial French general and war hero. Philbert Distiller Reserve Grande Champagne Cognac, with its hints of coffee, almonds, vanilla, caramel, and dried fruits, is one of its most popular expressions.”

Liquor Laboratory exclaims, “The cognac producer uses the oldest cognac-producing method to create the best-tasting brandy available in the U.S.A. and France. Philbert brandy has hints of fudge and honey, and it has a rich, deep full-flavor… We tried it neat, and we noticed the fine oak texture and smooth flow on the palate.”

3. Martell Blue Swift Cognac

Martell Blue Swift Cognac is a fine spirit to be certain, but it is also appropriate for use in cocktails. Plus, this bottle is affordable. Liquor.com says, “What brandy could be a better stand-in for whiskey in an Old Fashioned than a brandy that’s been aged in whiskey barrels? Back in 1783, Martell was the first producer in Cognac to ship brandy to the United States. Now the house gets even cozier with the U.S. by finishing its VSOP in Kentucky bourbon barrels.”

Martell Blue Swift Cognac
Martell Blue Swift Cognac (martell.com)

 

Tin Roof Drink Community describes, “Aged in whiskey barrels, this brandy is an excellent whiskey stand-in. It starts with a fruity note, and it goes on with vanilla and sweet fruity flavors. It finishes with a whiskey whiff and whiskey-like burn. This brandy is best characterized as strong and full-bodied but smooth and refined at the same time.”

Men’s Journal elaborates, “If there’s an expression to bridge the gap between bourbon and Cognac drinkers, it’s Martell Blue Swift. The first VSOP cognac to be finished in ex-bourbon barrels, it’s known for its mix of fruit esters and rich caramel (from traditional maturation), as well as toasted oak, vanilla beans, butterscotch, and dried fruit (from the bourbon casks).”

4. Rémy Martin V.S.O.P.

The next Rémy Martin bottle on our list is the divine V.S.O.P. and it is more indicative of the brand as a whole. This bottle is luxurious, yet vastly more affordable than the posh Louis XIII. ManOfMany comments, “Cognacs produced by Rémy Martin have a Cognac Fine Champagne appellation. This means that they only use eau de vie made from Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne crus. While the brand has a whole line of cognacs, one of its most popular is its VSOP. Known for its flavors of licorice, dried fruits, vanilla, and caramel, it’s a must-try cognac.”

Liquor Laboratory adds, “Rémy Martin produces cognacs, a type of brandy that has a strict requirement regulated by French Law that it should be produced from the Cognac region only. The brandy they produced came from fermented fruit mash made from Ugni Blanc grapes.”

“Rémy Martin is a type of cognac with a rich, luxurious taste, full-bodied aroma, and a long smooth finish to round everything up nicely. It is expressively fruity and floral, with the sweetness and age merged, creating this masterpiece that is the flagship of the brand itself. If you are a fan of extreme refinement, this is your drink. It may hit you a little harder on your pocket, but it will definitely be worth every penny,” details Tin Roof Drink Community.

5. Hennessy V.S.O.P.

Hennessy is the world’s most popular cognac. Loved by jet setters as well as cocktail aficionados, Hennessy is one of the more accessible spirits on this list. Luxe Digital explains, “Jas Hennessy & Co., or more popularly known as just Hennessy, is a cognac house that sells about 50 million bottles a year worldwide. This makes it the most popular Cognac brand in the world, and it supplies more than 40 percent of the world’s cognac.”

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Tasting Table offers, “Our top cognac has got to be the most recognizable one in the world. Hennessy is an exceptional liquor nearly universally palatable and appeals to both cognac connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Hennessy’s secret weapons are patience and the excellent palates and wisdom of its master distillers.”

Tin Roof Drink Community states, “It has a full-bodied, fruity flavor of fermented grapes from the Cognac region in France. It ages for two years in oak barrels, where it picks up its smooth, smoky flavor, making it resemble pure velvet as it slides down your throat. If there’s a synonym for this exquisite delicacy, it is enjoyment.”

6. Courvoisier V.S.O.P.

Courvoisier is another luxury brand that is available in different varieties. ManOfMany claims, “Courvoisier is one of the biggest names in the cognac world. Founded in 1835, it is the youngest and smallest of the ‘big four,’ but it’s made a name for itself by producing an accessible range of VS, VSOP, and XO Cognacs. Our favorite expression is its VSOP and we love its notes of almond cookies, vanilla, and ripe fruits.”

Good Housekeeping reviews, “We couldn’t bring you a brandy round-up without including Courvoisier. The household name is, as you might expect, a safe bet however you wish to serve it. A beautifully balanced cognac with honeyed sweetness, ginger and creamy coconut — we can understand the recent surge in popularity with a younger audience.”

Liquor Laboratory relates, “Courvoisier has a boasting perfect balance of taste and aroma. Courvoisier from Charente, France, will give you a bold-tasting brandy experience if you have a soft spot for drinking brandy. The line is the smallest and youngest of the big four cognac houses producing France’s best cognac.”

7. Delamain Pale and Dry XO Cognac

Delamain Cognac is another high-quality cognac that can be purchased at a relatively affordable price. As such it is a splurge, but not out of reach like King Louis. Esquire compliments, “Law dictates that XO cognacs must be aged for at least six years. This, however, has a casual 25 years under its belt, which creates a deliciously complex and citrus-forward cognac, backed up by light smoke, wood and a hint of vanilla. It’s certainly more delicate than other cognacs on test; which, coupled with well-integrated alcohol and a smooth mouthfeel, make this our top pick for beginners.”

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ManOfMany assures, “It all started when James Delamain moved from his native Ireland to France in 1759. The brand itself didn’t officially start until 1824. Since then, the company has remained in the family with nine generations taking part in the cognac world. If you’re going to try one of its expressions, make it Delamain XO Pale and Dry. It’s known for its fruity, honey, and vanilla flavors.”

Decanter says, “A new incarnation [is] this 100-year-old classic, with a higher abv, a smaller bottle and notably more intense aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle, merging into lip-smacking tropical fruit and citrus notes. Creamy Madagascan vanilla, a glorious texture and a supremely long finish. Retains all the harmony and charm of the original.”

How to Determine High-Quality Cognac from Low-Quality Cognac

When it comes to choosing the best cognac, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. Here are some tips on how to determine high-quality cognac from low-quality cognac:

Age

One of the most important factors in determining the quality of cognac is its age. The longer a cognac is aged, the more complex and flavorful it will be. However, it’s important to note that not all older cognacs are high-quality. Some producers may age their cognacs for a long time in order to mask off-flavors or to create a more mellow taste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the age of a cognac is not always listed on the bottle. In fact, many producers use a classification system to indicate the age of their cognacs. The most common classifications are:

  • VS (Very Special): At least 2 years old
  • VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): At least 4 years old
  • XO (Extra Old): At least 6 years old

It’s important to note that these are just minimum ages. Some producers may age their cognacs for longer, even within the same classification.

Grape variety

Another important factor to consider when choosing a cognac is the grape variety used to make it. The most common grape variety used in cognac is Ugni Blanc. However, other varieties, such as Folle Blanche and Colombard, may also be used.

Ugni Blanc is a versatile grape variety that produces a light, fruity cognac. Folle Blanche is a more delicate grape variety that produces a more floral and complex cognac. Colombard is a hearty grape variety that produces a full-bodied cognac with more pronounced fruit flavors.

Region

Cognac is produced in the Cognac region of France. This region is divided into six crus, or growing areas. Each cru produces a cognac with its own unique flavor profile.

The Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne crus are the most prestigious crus and produce the highest quality cognacs. These cognacs are known for their complex flavors and long finish.

The Borderies and Fins Bois crus produce cognacs that are more fruity and floral. The Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires crus produce cognacs that are more rustic and have more pronounced oak flavors.

Price

Price is not always a reliable indicator of quality when it comes to cognac. However, in general, higher-quality cognacs will be more expensive. This is because older cognacs and cognacs from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne crus are more expensive to produce.

Brand reputation

When choosing a cognac, it’s also a good idea to consider the brand reputation. Some cognac brands are known for producing high-quality cognacs, while others are known for producing lower-quality cognacs.

Here are some of the most reputable cognac brands:

  • Hennessy
  • Remy Martin
  • Martell
  • Courvoisier
  • Hine
  • Delamain
  • Frapin
  • Camus
  • Audry
  • Tesseron
  • Leopold Gourmel

Appearance

When examining a cognac, pay attention to its appearance. A high-quality cognac should be clear and have a golden amber color. It should also have a smooth, oily consistency.

Aroma

A high-quality cognac should have a complex and inviting aroma. It may have aromas of fruit, flowers, spices, nuts, and oak.

Taste

A high-quality cognac should have a smooth and well-balanced taste. It should not be too sweet or too dry. It should also have a long, lingering finish.

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Sources:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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